Inspector general says TSA doled out unequal awards to employees

The Transportation Security Administration held an "unnecessarily expensive" awards program in 2003 and has "a substantial inequity" within its performance recognition program between managers and employees, the Homeland Security Department's inspector general said in a report released Wednesday.

TSA spent about $460,000 to host its first annual awards program in Washington last November, Inspector General Clark Kent Irvin said in the report. The agency distributed about $1.5 million in individual cash awards to 88 executives during 2003, making its average award more than any other agency's average award to executives, according to the report.

Overall, the report concluded that TSA's awards ceremony and executive performance awards complied with federal laws and regulations. The report said, however, that the cost for the awards program "proved to be excessive." Additionally, TSA used identical, boilerplate language to justify awards for its executives, but did not give equal awards to nonexecutive employees.

"We are recommending that TSA solicit competitive bids for all services and products associated with its annual awards ceremony; ensure that each executive performance award is supported by a justification specific to the employee and with attendant additional detail to support awards in exceptional amounts; and provide more equitable treatment for lower-graded employees when making performance award decisions," the report said.

Irvin said his office learned of concerns about the awards program from a February 2004 article in Congressional Quarterly.

TSA Administrator David Stone criticized parts of the report. He said the costs for the awards ceremony "were neither extraordinary nor incurred without careful consideration of the amount, the reasonableness of the cost and value the activities would have to the employees."

Stone said the report failed to acknowledge that TSA had to incur the full costs of the awards ceremony because the Homeland Security Department did not host an awards event. Stone added that "TSA did compete a substantial portion of the program's procurement dollars."

According to the IG report, TSA failed to solicit competitive bids when selecting a site for the awards program, and did not compare the total costs associated with different site selections or ceremony configurations. Although not required, Irvin said it would have been good business practice for TSA to get competitive bids from other potential venues.

"By not announcing the procurement, TSA could not be assured that it received the best value possible," the report stated. "While the costs of transporting and housing recipients for an awards event, the allied costs for plaques, photographs of the ceremony, and a reception are elements commonly incurred in an agency award program and allowed by applicable regulation, in our view TSA's choices proved to be excessive."

With regard to bonuses, Stone said TSA conducted its program within all established parameters for similar programs in other federal agencies. He noted that the bonuses were for a two-year period, as opposed to a more common one-year cycle generally used in other agencies. He said it is "inaccurate and misleading" to compare awards granted by TSA, which is an agency, to awards granted by much-larger Cabinet-level departments.

On the subject of distribution of performance awards, the report said: "TSA was not able to provide reliable or comprehensive data for its monetary awards and performance recognition program for employees in lower, nonexecutive grades. However, the data TSA did provide, though incomplete, suggests that a substantial inequity exists in its performance recognition program between executive and nonexecutive employees."

In response, Stone wrote: "While we await the final DHS-wide performance management system, we are working to ensure that this upcoming performance award cycle has the appropriate systems, processes and reviews in place to provide equitable treatment for all TSA employees."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.